Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Reading Into the Past: Week of 6/4

I'm rolling high numbers these days: this week I got a 13, which sends me back to the books I read this week in 1993:
  • W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, 1066 and All That (6/3)
    Even though I wasn't an English schoolboy when I read it, it was still pretty entertaining. And the idea of "memorable history" (i.e., only the history you actually remember) was quite accurate and done well. You probably have to be a bit of an Anglophile to enjoy it, but that's about all.
  • Michael Moorcock, Wizardry and Wild Romance (6/5)
    A collection of his essays about fantasy, including "Epic Pooh," his extended attack on Tolkien (which anyone interested in fantasy should read, even if you don't agree with him). The other sections haven't stuck with me, particularly, but Moorcock is never frightened of having an opinion, and that makes books like this bracing, entertaining, and useful for examining one's own settled prejudices.
  • Graham Chapman, A Liar's Autobiography (6/8)
    It also had nearly a half-dozen co-authors for various sections and parts, as I recall. It's funny and breezy, but doesn't cover Chapman's life all that well -- but, then, the title doesn't lead you to expect that to begin with, anyway. (Chapman is one of the guys from Monty Python, but surely I don't have to tell that to anyone reading this blog, right?)
And that actually runs over the week in question. I didn't read all that much just then, since I was a bit busy: I'd gotten married on May 22, and The (New) Wife and I flew out to London early on the 23rd and spent a week there and a week in Edinburgh. We got back to Lodi, New Jersey (where we'd just gotten an apartment), as I recall, on Sunday, June 6th. So I'd finished Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics on the 20th, and then nothing until the Sellar/Yeatman book. (All three of the books above, incidentally, were ones I bought while in the UK.)

But, to make up for that short list, I'll try to dig out from my notebook for subsequent months as many of the books I bought in the UK as I can remember. (In those pre-Internet days, getting books from another country was difficult, if not impossible, so book-shopping was one of my major honeymoon activities.)
  • Kim "Howard" Johnson, Life Before and After Monty Python (6/12)
    I'm not 100% sure I bought this in the UK, but I might have done. (Bonus UK grammar for added verisimilitude) The short version of this book is: all those guys did things that paid a lot better after the TV series, but, in most cases, weren't as artistically successful. (If I can use "artistically successful" to describe a series of silly-shop sketches.) Pleasant reading for people who care about this sort of thing, and I did.
  • Frank Miller, Sin City (6/13)
    This was on sale at the Forbidden Planet in London, so I bought it. I gave up on the subsequent series, since they were all the same essential story, with Miller's neuroses more and more on display, but this one was good pulpy fun. If it had been a one-off, it would have been one of the comics highlights of the decade.
  • Tim Powers, On Stranger Tides (6/14)
    Another book I got cheap at Forbidden Planet. Not my very favorite Tim Powers novel, but it has pirates in it, and it's better than 99% of the fantasy out there.
  • Terry Pratchett, The Carpet People (6/15)
    Very minor, very early Pratchett -- so minor and so early that he was embarrassed enough to spruce it up a bit for republication. It's very slight and mild, but probably worth reading for those who have read everything else by Pratchett.
  • P.G. Wodehouse, Much Obliged, Jeeves (6/16)
    This was the one Jeeves book that wasn't in print in the US, so I made a point of tracking it down when I was in the UK. Yes, they're that good. A man who is tired of Wodehouse is tired of life.
  • Alina Reyes, The Butcher (6/17)
    A novella-in-paperback-book-form, with a tarty all-foil cover, translated from something (probably the French), and all kinds of "this is not just a smutty book, this is real transgressive literature" signs all over it. It was a decent smutty book.
  • Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Imaginary Beings (6/18)
    I don't remember at all what stories are in this one.
  • Greg Egan, Quarantine (6/22)
    This is before Egan was published in the States, though the buzz was going on in skfify circles. So I had to get a copy of Quarantine when I was in the UK and read it for myself. And, yes, it really was that good, and that surprising, then. Oh, were we ever so young?
  • Brian Aldiss, Bury My Heart at W.H. Smith's (6/30)
    His bookselling and otherwise book-related memoir. I am a sucker for the non-fiction of fiction writers, and even more a sucker for well-written books about books. I probably should re-read this some time.
  • Peter Ackroyd, Hawksmoor (7/8)
    I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I understood it. And that was a long time ago, so I couldn't tell you now anything at all about it.
And I think that was it. The interesting thing is that I can't find the book I know I was reading on the plane (and finished sometime later) anywhere in the notebook -- that was The Birth of the Modern by Paul Johnson, an absolutely amazing history book about a short period of time in the early 19th century when, the author explains, everything changed and the seeds of the modern world were sown.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have all three of the books you mentioned, including a copy of the Chapman booked signed by co-author Douglas Adams. Unfortunately, when I met Chapman, the book was in Chicago and I was in Bloomington. The card he signed is stuck in my copy of the book.

I bought my copy of the Moorcock in the Shambles in York. Don't remember where I bought 1066, but it was in England.

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